21 matches. 328 scrums. No crooked feeds? It’s the scrum trial in France.

In round six of the Top 14 French league an odd thing happened: there wasn’t a single crooked feed penalised in the seven games that weekend.

Round seven was the same, another duck egg in the Top 14 crooked feeds column.

How did round eight go?

Unfortunately, the trend continues.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 00.28.24

For the third consecutive round of Top 14 games there were no free kicks for crooked feeds awarded in France’s flagship rugby competition. Considering the emphasis on the straight feed as part of the scrum trial this would seem quite extraordinary.

How many scrums happen in three weeks of Top 14 games?

Over the three weekends of Top 14 rounds six, seven and eight there were a total of 328 scrums.In each instance two large, sweating masses composed mostly of Frenchmen packed down and awaited the arrival of the ball into the channel from a diminutive colleague.

As no free kicks were awarded the referees judged that in each of these 328 instances the ball was put in straight every single time.

The LNR (the Top 14 governing body) when asked about this said that it was a matter for the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and their Referee Central Commission. Unfortunately as of the time of writing the FFR have not provided comment.

What’s happening in the Premiership?

Good question. Let’s have a look.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 00.28.37

In these early rounds the English league appears to be moving in a similar manner to the Top 14’s first few weeks but starting at a lower level.

On an individual basis Premiership referee Andrew Small continues to lead the European straight feed charts – in the four matches he has officiated this season he has yet to see a feed that was not straight. The Top 14’s Pascal Gauzere and his single crooked feed in five games is perhaps his closest challenger.

The Pro 12

And onwards to the Pro 12, where at this very early stage things look a little different to France or England.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 00.28.54

Four rounds in and the rate of crooked feeds has actually increased relative to the first weekend.

However, with both the Premiership and Pro 12 it’s important not to read too much into just four rounds of games, especially in light of the figures from France that now look completely different to their own first month.

Straight or Ignored?

Perhaps every scrum in the last three rounds of the Top 14 has been fed with a ball delivered straight down the middle. The alternative possibility is less palatable, that being that French referees have simply stopped looking for and enforcing the straight feed.

The scrum trial will last for a full global season, covering rugby matches from all over the world at all levels of the game. The straight feed is a vital piece of that trial. It’s important that the pressure is kept on referees and scrum halves to perform their jobs correctly.

Now take a moment to take pity on whatever poor sod might be asked to review the video of all 328 of those Top 14 scrums from the last three weeks.

Noble work.

And, sadly, perhaps necessary.


Data Credit: referee data courtesy of Opta





Image Credit: Shel T. Randall


Leave A Comment